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ANTHRAX, Black Label Society, Exodus – House of Blues, Boston, MA (USA) 05/02/23

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Words and pix by Robert Forte

Anthrax has been plying their thrash metal wares to the masses for over four decades. Much like most long-standing outfits, Anthrax has had their fair share of up and downs from a popularity standpoint, band member turnover, inner strife and more close calls with retiring the band for good than most fans would feel comfortable with.

So what has been the secret to Anthrax’s success all of these years despite little mainstream radio support and only producing three full-length LPs since 2000?

Anthrax simply knows what their fans want, and they dispense with all of the bullshit to deliver it to them whenever and wherever possible. The band often dispatches with all of the pomp and circumstance at their live shows with the sole purpose of their sets being to thrash and entertain at full throttle from the second the curtain drops until the last note of music is played.

Anthrax delivered on that mission statement recently as they pulled their tour bus up to the House of Blues in Boston, Massachusetts this past weekend as their 40th Anniversary tour continues to roll towards its conclusion with both Black Label Society and fellow 1980s thrash heroes Exodus along for the ride.

This particular Anthrax tour is much more about the band celebrating their music and their legacy than anything else. As the focus this time around is more on the music, the band’s fans and the symbiotic connection that exists between the two, the 40th Anniversary Tour’s production values were on the lighter side in Boston. Outside of a singular, gigantic banner hung behind the stage and a standard venue lighting set up, there wasn’t much for fans to lose their focus on.

The stripped-down production easily allowed each and every fan to zero in on the one thing the band and the audience had gathered together to share with one another in an intimate setting in the first place, Anthrax!!!

To little surprise, Anthrax’s set leaned heavily on their greatest hits and their output from the early part of their career. The only song to be played on the evening that was even recorded beyond the year 2000 ended up being a single track from Anthrax’s 2011 LP, Worship Music, In the End.

Worship Music marked vocalist Joey Belladona‘s return to the band after an acrimonious ten-year split that both Belladona and Anthrax seem to remember quite differently, even to this very day. Belladona was ultimately replaced by vocalist John Bush from the Los Angeles based heavy metal outfit, Armored Saint. Bush would go on to record four albums with Anthrax before Belladona returned for Worship Music and Anthrax’s subsequent follow up, 2016’s, For All Kings.

Sadly, despite there being more than a few resplendent songs from the John Bush era of the band Anthrax have long stayed away from playing any Bush-led tracks, that is until recently. To the surprise of many in Boston and I’m guessing just about every fan on this current tour cycle, Anthrax has been playing Only from 1993’s Sound of White Noise.

What wasn’t much of a surprise was how excited fans at the House of Blues instantly became when the first few chords of Only began to blare from the House of Blue’s wall of sound mere feet away from the vast majority of them.

It’d be difficult to point out any other specific highlights from Anthrax’s set in Boston because the reality is their entire performance from the House of Blues was one long, strange, glorious trip down 80s thrash metal lane. The real takeaway from their time here was instead more aligned with the crowd’s energy as well as spontaneous back and forth between the band and the audience throughout the entirety of the performance. Rarely as a fan do you feel the crowd is working in a hive mind-like state, moving, breathing, listening, and even thrashing as one. However, that’s the beauty of Anthrax. They don’t bait and switch their audiences with bells and whistles at their live shows.

Instead, the band simply gets up on stage and invites thousands of their metal brothers and sisters to come along for a ride that’s as much about the music as it is about celebrating it, together. Not as spectators per se but almost as honorary band members where you and your metal friends are given an all access pass to re-live and live again why thrash and metal initially hypnotized you oh so many years ago and why it still does to this very day.

Caught in a Mosh, Antisocial, Bring the Noise, Indians and other classics Anthrax played on the night didn’t just produce devil horns and thrashing from the Boston audience faithful. Instead, those songs being played elicited as many hugs, smiles and laughs as anything else. That right there is a testament to the draw and power of Anthrax as entertainers and even quality humans than it does to say anything particular about their music, which again, has mesmerized millions upon millions globally for over 40 years now. There’s more good news on the way for the Anthrax faithful as the band has already committed to completing the following up to 2016’s, For All Kings, once the final leg of their ongoing 40th anniversary tour comes to end later in February.

More thrash albums from the mighty Anthrax. More Anthrax live shows for the metal masses to consume.

Yes, please and make it fast!!!!!

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